In today’s market, there are more channels than ever on which brands and companies can engage with their customers. At the same time, customers expect a seamless experience from one channel to the next and want to engage with their chosen brands and companies on the channels they want, when they want to.
That means the contact center of old, with locked-in phone trees, long wait times, and unclear menu options—among a lot of other disadvantages—just don’t cut it anymore. Building strong relationships relies on clear, consistent, trusted communications before, during, and after a purchase, and that means the contact center is the lifeblood of customer loyalty. To help inform how you approach improving customer interactions, here are three critical factors shaping the future of enterprise contact centers into 2020 and beyond: a changing workforce, process automation, and customer expectations.
Factor 1: Next-generation workforce
By 2025, millennials are forecast to comprise 75% of the global workforce. And they have different expectations and approaches to their professional lives than previous generations. Their shared values include flexibility, work-life balance, collaboration, and instant access to information with the right technology readily available. Fall short of those expectations and you can expect millennials and Gen Z’ers alike to make it known—internally and across their social networks and employer review sites.
To cater to the millennial and Gen Z workforce, not to mention maintain a positive reputation, contact centers of the future will need to focus on employee engagement. Companies need to involve agents in deciding what tools and data they need to do their jobs more effectively, and in making updates and changes to their contact center. New technology decisions should include considerations for the quality of the employee experience, among which include task and schedule management via mobile apps, an intuitive desktop UI, and a 360o customer view.
Ultimately, your agents want to feel empowered to do their job as best they can and feel like they are making a difference in people's lives.
Factor 2: Process automation
As customer service has expanded into more channels, self-service has become key to scaling on-demand delivery in real-time. The traditional contact center operation model, largely based on a tiered approach to customer service, relies on agents fielding incoming calls to route customers to the appropriate department or representative to handle an issue. Today, technologies such as conversational interactive voice response (IVRs), virtual assistants, social media, and chatbots, deflect calls. In fact, by 2022, 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service and 72% of customer interactions will involve an emerging technology, such as machine-learning applications, chatbots, or mobile messaging.
Thanks to the automation of repetitive and routine tasks, contact center agents now require more specialized knowledge and skills as they handle more complex cases and subsequently, collaborate more to troubleshoot. Some contact centers are already changing their compensation structure with payment based on team goals (NPS), rather than individual goals.
For more personalized case management that prioritizes delivery through the right channel instead of every channel, so-called intelligent automation (IA), the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, can route incoming inquiries to the most appropriate representative and recommend answers to agents for better, faster problem resolution.
This convergence of technologies can also help contact center agents maintain a comprehensive customer record of interaction history from across every channel. When asked what is most critical to the future of customer service, the #1 response was, “better agent engagement through the provision of a complete set of contextual data.”
Ultimately, AI is reinforcing—not replacing—the customer service expertise of live agents. And to keep up with these advances, contact centers of the future will continually inspect and improve operations, actively managing to improved organizational KPIs.
Aside from implementation, the other main challenge of AI technology is culture. The contact centers that leverage AI-powered tools most effectively and translate them into improved business metrics will spend at least 50% of their analytics budget on adoption-related activities and not the technology itself.
Factor 3: Customer expectations
Technology-driven customer expectations have risen along with the growth of digital in business, and the cost of failing to meet expectations is high.
62% of us customers have stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. Contact centers are expected to provide 24/7 personalized service on the channel of a customer’s choice, and many companies are building proprietary personified AI, virtual personal assistants, e.g. Alexa or Siri, that are already settled firmly into consumers’ lifestyles and therefore likely to be strongly preferred over an individual company’s AI assistant.
Enterprise contact centers of the future should consider how to leverage natural language processing (NLP) for their business to provide support through 3rd party virtual personal assistants. It’s clear: contact centers of the future need to be flexible enough to continuously evolve as customer habits and preferences change. To that end, an increasing number of enterprise contact centers are leveraging an application platform approach using Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to build their own contact center functionalities—made possible by the shift from on-premise systems to cloud platforms.
Software is increasingly pervasive and central to most companies across all verticals. Companies are realizing that in order to differentiate themselves in an increasingly software-driven world, they need the wherewithal in-house (or with trusted partners) to build software and make it do what the competition is not. They cannot simply buy the same software package that everyone else is buying.
To suit the future workforce, capitalize on emerging technologies, and meet—and exceed—customer expectations, the application platform approach is gaining momentum because companies want to fully own the development and deployment of their systems enhancements, and not be beholden to another vendor’s roadmap.
The enterprise contact center of the future will reduce agent cognitive load, facilitate increased collaboration and a team-based approach to solving problems and meet the increased customer demand for NLP-powered service and personalized support.